Exploring the potential of life-history key innovation: brook breeding in the radiation of the Malagasy treefrog genus Boophis


Miguel Vences. Present address: Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, Zoological Museum, University of Amsterdam, PO Box 94766, 1090 GT Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Fax: + 49 2219417284; E-mail: m.vences@t-online.de


The treefrog genus Boophis is one of the most species-rich endemic amphibian groups of Madagascar. It consists of species specialized to breeding in brooks (48 species) and ponds (10 species). We reconstructed the phylogeny of Boophis using 16S ribosomal DNA sequences (558 bp) from 27 species. Brook-breeders were monophyletic and probably derived from an ancestral pond-breeding lineage. Pond-breeders were paraphyletic. The disparity in diversification among pond-breeders and brook-breeders was notable among endemic Malagasy frogs, although it was not significant when considering Boophis alone. Sibling species which have different advertisement calls but are virtually indistinguishable by morphology were common among brook-breeders; genetic divergence between these species was high (modal 8% total pairwise divergence). Substitution rates in brook-breeding species were significantly higher than in pond-breeders. Speciation of pond-breeders may be hindered by their usually more synchronous reproduction and a higher vagility which enhances gene flow, while a higher potential of spatial segregation and speciation may exist along brooks.